IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re Suzanne H. Boeck, petitioner,
G. Robert Boeck,
Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge
Washington County District Court
File No. F2885407
Suzanne H. Boeck, 4900 South Ulster Street, No. 3-112, Denver, CO 80237 (pro se respondent)
Tracey A. Galowitz, Lawson, Marshall, McDonald & Galowitz, P.A., 3880 Laverne Avenue North, Lake Elmo, MN 55042 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge
On appeal after remand, appellant-husband argues that the district court abused its discretion by setting his maintenance obligation for the year 2001 at an amount exceeding respondent-wife’s needs and awarding wife his previous maintenance overpayments as attorney fees. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining appellant’s maintenance obligation or in its award of attorney fees and did not err in calculating appellant’s income, we affirm.
The parties’ marriage was dissolved on May 11, 1990. Appellant G. Robert Boeck was ordered to pay to respondent Suzanne H. Boeck permanent spousal maintenance in the sum of $1,800 each month and an annual lump sum of additional spousal maintenance in an amount representing 50% of appellant’s net annual income over $60,000. Appellant was also ordered to pay $1,400 each month as child support.
In February 2001, the district court ordered an increase in appellant’s monthly child support obligation to $2,048 and in his monthly maintenance payments to $6,000, eliminated the lump-sum-payment obligation, and found appellant to be in contempt of court.
Appellant then moved to amend the February 2001 order, so as to reduce his child support and spousal maintenance obligations and to vacate the finding of contempt. In August 2001, the district court vacated the finding of contempt, but denied the other motions. In October 2001, appellant sought review of the district court’s order by this court.
This court affirmed the district court’s August 2001 order, but remanded to the district court to make adequate findings regarding respondent’s needs so that appellant’s motion for reduction of spousal maintenance could be properly determined.
In August 2002, the district court found that appellant had overpaid spousal maintenance for the years 1991 through 2000 by $41,319.33, but also that appellant had wrongfully spent funds from an account the parties had set up for their son. The district court subtracted the funds from the appellant’s overpayment of spousal maintenance and awarded the difference to respondent for attorney fees.
In September 2002, the district court ordered appellant to pay an additional $18,554.86 in attorney fees to respondent. In November 2002, appellant moved the district court for an order finding that he had overpaid $48,000 in spousal maintenance in 2001, vacating the previous orders awarding attorney fees, reducing his spousal maintenance to $2,000 each month, vacating the contempt-of-court finding, and asking for attorney fees.
In its order filed December 26, 2001, from which this appeal is taken, the court denied appellant’s motions to reduce his $6,000 monthly maintenance payments for the year 2001 and to vacate the finding of contempt, and upheld the 2001 award of spousal maintenance, the current monthly maintenance obligation of $2,500, and the award of attorney fees of $37,874.
The standard of review of a district court’s award of spousal maintenance requires us to determine whether the district court abused its discretion. Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989) (citation omitted).
There must be a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on record before this court will find that the trial court abused its discretion.
Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).
Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion because it erroneously calculated that respondent’s monthly deficit is $2,161.80, yet set maintenance payments at $6,000. Appellant’s basic argument is that the district court abused its discretion in its order for maintenance payments during the year 2001 because the district court erred in its determination of respondent’s needs.
2. Attorney Fees
The decision to award attorney fees “rests almost entirely within the discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed absent a clear abuse of discretion.” Crosby v. Crosby, 587 N.W.2d 292, 298 (Minn. App. 1998) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Feb. 18, 1999). The district court may require one party to pay reasonable, need-based attorney fees for the other after considering the financial resources of both parties. Minn. Stat. § 518.14, subd. 1 (2002). A determination regarding attorney fees will rarely be overturned on appeal. Burns v. Burns, 466 N.W.2d 421, 424 (Minn. App. 1991).
Need-based attorney fees shall be awarded where the court finds
(1) that the fees are necessary for the good-faith assertion of the party’s rights in the proceeding and will not contribute unnecessarily to the length and expense of the proceeding;
(2) that the party from whom fees, costs, and disbursements are sought has the means to pay them; and
(3) that the party to whom fees, costs and disbursements are awarded does not have the means to pay them.
Nothing in this section precludes the court from awarding, in its discretion, additional, fees, costs, and disbursements against a party who unreasonably contributes to the length or expense of the proceeding.
Minn. Stat. § 518.14, subd. 1.
Here, the district court made the required statutory findings to support an award of attorney fees when it found that appellant has the means to pay the attorney fees in part because his income substantially exceeds his needs; that respondent does not have the means to pay them because she is in debt and her income, even with maintenance payments, does not meet her needs; and that all motions were brought in good faith. The district court did not abuse its discretion in its order for need-based attorney fees.
In addition, nothing precludes the district court from awarding, in its discretion, fees, costs, and disbursements against a party who unreasonably contributes to the length and expense of the proceeding. Id.
Appellant argues that, because he had to file motions with the court to get the court to properly apply the law regarding spousal maintenance, he was not in fact in contempt of court. He claims that because he had overpaid spousal maintenance by $41,319.33 and “[t]hat amount of money is a large sum and was worth fighting for to receive the credit,” he was justified in not paying the maintenance obligation as ordered. However, appellant provides no authorities to support his claim that when a party believes the district court erred in its award of maintenance it is permissible to withhold maintenance until the alleged error is corrected.
Minnesota law provides that disobeying a lawful court order may result in a finding of civil contempt. Minn. Stat. § 588.01, subd. 3, (2002). A lawful court order must be obeyed and is fully enforceable until the order expires or is modified. Tell v. Tell, 383 N.W.2d 678, 682-83 (Minn. 1986). Thus, even though appellant did overpay, appellant was obligated to pay respondent until the order was vacated. Here, the record supports the district court’s finding that appellant had contributed to the length and expense of the proceeding by not making the spousal maintenance and child support payments on time.
3. Calculation of appellant’s income